3 chapters from a story WIP that my friend Lola and I worked on jointly several years ago. We never finished it, but I have rescued my parts for a story featuring Vree Erickson. Enjoy, but I caution you that this contains strong language. Read more of Lola’s writing at her WordPress blog.
~ 1 ~
The rush of icy air filled my lungs and brought my senses back. I was in my bed, but the dark creature from the tree had followed. It hovered above me, black like a panther with the teeth of a shark, levitating by the magic it used to lure me to its lair. My scream burst from my mouth. I thrashed and kicked at my bedcovers to get away, but they held me fast.
The creature disappeared when my bed lamp clicked on. Mother’s worried face replaced the spot that the creature had occupied moments ago. Her warm embrace took away the cold shivering through me.
She helped me out of bed, fussing over me, telling me that a hot shower would make me feel better.
The flu had run its course, but the visions had been like punches to the stomach and left me weak. Mother led me to the bathroom door and left me to undress and shower away my anxiety.
Alone, naked and cold, I stood in front of the shower door and felt the place on my forehead where the ghost of Susie had touched me. Her warning about Julie echoed in my mind. “She has the power to possess you, to be inside you and know your thoughts. She’s using you to look for me so she can banish me from this world forever.”
I fell against the glass door and wept. Witches, ghosts … and now, possession. Surely I had gone insane. Bile rose in my throat. I ran to the toilet and vomited into the water. I watched the yellow sour liquid spread tendrils and flow like ooze to the bottom of the bowl while I wondered if I was really possessed. I pinched my cheeks to make sure and felt nothing. I dug fingernails into flesh and made my left forearm bleed. If there was a witch living inside me, she stayed hidden.
“This can’t be real,” I thought as I stumbled to the shower stall and closed myself inside. Hot water massaged my back. I shivered and shuddered and closed my eyes to the anxiety running through me. When I opened them, mother stood in front of me, naked and radiant. I yelped in surprise. I hadn’t heard the shower’s door slide open or close.
She reached for me and I yelled for her to go away. Pain crossed her face.
“Don’t you love me?” she asked.
“You’re not my mother, so get the fuck out, Julie. Now.”
Her look hardened, the way they used to when she and daddy fought and he used the F word on her. I thought she was going to slap me. I worried that perhaps she really was my mother standing naked in the shower with me.
“No,” I said. “My mother would never do this.”
“Why not? Are you embarrassed to see me naked?” She grinned, spread her arms, and told me to come to her. “It’s time to open your eyes and see the world as it really is, Fiona.”
I opened the door and hurried out. Julie’s voice erupted from inside the shower as she laughed at me. When I turned back, the stall was empty. Water from the showerhead spilled to the floor. I sat on the toilet and shook. I tried to cry but the tears would not come. I felt a whispery hand stroke my face. Susie stood in front of me. I bolted through her and ran to my room, threw on a pair of sweats and my tennis shoes, and slipped down the stairs and out the front door, making certain that my mother didn’t see or hear me leave. Then, after I was certain that neither she nor Julie were tailing me, I ran from my mother’s haunted house. I was never going back. And no one was going to make me.
~ 2 ~
I knew the way back to Clearview. I also knew the many miles that lay ahead of me.
When I reached the highway, I didn’t slow down. I popped up a thumb and prayed for someone to pick me up. No one stopped.
After walking for nearly three hours, my stomach complained of being hungry. I was well into the countryside and had passed several cornfields. It was three weeks past the Fourth of July and the cornstalks were barely above knee level. Rain had been scarce this year, but a storm was brewing somewhere nearby. The humidity smelled ripe with impending thunderstorms as the white sky grayed and became bruised with purple. I glared one last time with all the hate I could muster at the town of Odinwood behind me and that bitch Julie. She could find someone else to harass.
My stomach complained louder and even yelled at me, so I scanned the area for food. It was too early in the summer to find any ripe fruit, berries or nuts, and I had no clue as to what lay inside the woods on either side of the highway. After walking a quarter mile, I spotted an apple tree with green apples along the edge of a field. I went to it and found that the apples on the ground were hard and dry and bitter. I climbed the tree and found softer, juicier ones there. They were sour but helped ease away the thirst and soften my hunger pangs.
After I ate, I was able to think with a clear mind for the first time since moving into that creepy Odinwood house. I looked out over the countryside, and despite the humidity still pressing its wet weight on me, I enjoyedg the view and the feeling of leaving Julie behind. Canada Geese honked from a pond just beyond the branches of pine trees, and I could see glimmering water from my perch. I felt thirsty again and I knew I needed to go there and replenish the liquids I’d lost during my walk if I planned to—
What? What did I plan to do? Julie had me on the run and it pissed me off. I had no phone, a long way to walk, and where was I going to go once I reached Clearview? Sure, I could hide out with friends, but my mother would find me missing and call the police and I would end up back at that house and in Julie’s clutches again.
I was damned no matter what I did. I felt trapped, and the apple tree’s branches seemed to take on a sinister feel, like fingers with claws closing around me. I scrambled down and nearly ran toward the water, seeking to quench my thirst and revise my plan.
I staggered through the tall grass and scratched at the dust and flies settling on my sweaty neck and arms. I slapped at the flies biting at my arms and stumbled through the trees and scrub until I saw the pond. There were no thoughts of snakes or quicksand or any other danger as I raced to a deserted clearing at the water’s edge. The pond was small and except for a group of Canada geese swimming in the middle, the place was deserted. Green brush and willow trees surrounded the area and there were large crops of rush along the shore that served as refuge from the highway behind me. I hurried out of my clothes and draped them across the rush. I enjoyed the cool air as it pleased my exposed body. Then I “oohed” an “aahed” as I treaded cool summer water until it covered my breasts. My feet sank into the dark ooze of the muddy bottom, clouding the water as it rose all the way to my chin.
I stayed there for several minutes and let my body relax and go with the gentle push against me until a fly bit at my face and forced me to submerge. When I surfaced, a gentle wind rustled in the trees. The cool breeze prickled my skin. My exposed body became adorned with crystal jewels of water that glittered like diamonds when I returned to the shore, and the cooling air brought relief to the welts made by the biting flies. I sat and stretched out in the grass at the water’s edge and basked under a willow tree while I worked on my plan. I had to get to Clearview and to Annie Freemont’s. The Freemonts would let me stay for a day or two, and then I would have to work hard at convincing mother we needed to either move back to Clearview or find another place to live. More than anything, I had to make sure I was far away from Julia Stillman.
Ready to go, I managed to dress into my underpants without too much difficulty of sliding the cotton over wet skin, and was about to hook into my bra when a knife’s long silver blade flashed in front of my eyes. I turned and stared wildly at the blonde-haired witch who smiled at me with a beguiled look that twisted from ice blue eyes.
I screamed in anger and frustration at the sight of Julie Stillman, but with alarm at the hunting knife gripped tight in her right hand.
She put a finger against my lips. “You’ll scare away the geese,” she said. She wore the blue cotton T-shirt that said BITCHES, WITCHES AND RICHES, and her neck throbbed as she pressed the knife blade against my chin. I covered my breasts with my hands even though she stared into my eyes.
“Is this your knife?” she asked.
My jaw had turned rigid and my mouth became useless. I shook my head no when she asked again if the knife belonged to me.
Then she said, “Found it lying here in the grass, of all things. A real beauty with no rust or nicks or any blood on it. If it isn’t yours, I think I’ll keep it. Finders keepers, you know, and I could use a knife like this.”
I tried to speak, but my mouth stayed closed. My mind churned with ideas of escape. As soon as she moved that knife away from my face, I planned to run.
She pressed the cold blade against my throat and backed me against a willow tree. I tried to scream but my voice was gone. I pleaded with my eyes for her to leave me alone.
She laughed. “Cat must have your tongue,” she said. “Lucky cat. I love tongue.”
I clenched my jaw as she touched my right breast with her left hand. She pinched gently at the nipple. “Hell of a shock I gave you,” she said. “Your nips are like pencil erasers.”
Her words felt numb to my ears as I wondered if she would actually kill me. The point of the knife pricked my skin. I stifled a cry and looked past her, out at the geese on the pond, their bodies and the wind rippling the water’s surface.
Julie took her hand away and held up a fat aquatic worm. “Can’t believe you didn’t feel this bloodsucker feeding on your tit.” She tossed it away. “That nipple will get sore. Why don’t you come back home and let me take care of it for you?” She sucked the blood from her long fingers. “We could be friends, you know. Besties.”
Tears flooded my eyes. “Wh-What do you want?” I managed to ask in a raspy voice.
She lapped again at her fingers, and then said, “I came to see if you really think you can run away from me. That’s all.”
“Please leave me alone.” I struggled to breathe properly. The words felt dead as I watched the pond disappear from a wall of tears building in front of my eyes. I felt my mind leave me and take my sight with it. I was somewhere in grayness where nothing existed. I was unafraid in the grayness. In the grayness I could move again, breathe again, speak again.
In the grayness I screamed forth my anger.
The pond hurried into view as my mind and sight returned to my body. I found myself leaning against the willow tree, naked. Julie was gone. I yelled and bawled in frustration as I hurried into my clothes.
Across the pond, a goose honked. It sounded like mocking laughter.
Then the first rumble of thunder traversed the sky.
~ 3 ~
I couldn’t believe Julie had followed me to the pond. She actually thought her display with the knife was going to scare me enough to go back to Odinwood. Ha!
In defiance, I marched over to the highway and turned toward Clearview and the purple-gray sky that spewed forth a sudden and angry thunder. Escape from Julie meant I would have to go through the heart of the storm. I spewed forth my own thunder. I wished that I’d not forgotten my cell phone. I could have called Annie and had her boyfriend come rescue me.
A crow cawed from the trees near the pond. I watched the black bird lift into flight with bulky wings, flapping above treetops, pushing its torso to the sky as the first drop of rain struck my face. The crow banked left, soared across the highway, and landed awkwardly to perch atop a pine tree. It pranced and positioned itself so that it stared down at me.
I yelled at it, told it to fly away.
It cawed at me instead and ruffled its feathers as though it had shrugged its shoulders.
I was wasting precious time. A few more raindrops fell on me as I started up the highway. I had gone about twenty yards when the crow flew past my head and landed a few feet in front of me. It turned, faced me and stood defiant.
I refused to stop. As I passed its left, it pecked suddenly at my left leg, sending pain shooting through the side of my knee.
“Son of a bitch,” I yelled as it struck my knee again with that chisel-like beak and sent more pain shooting through my leg.
I jumped away and then kicked at it as it came for another peck. It dodged my foot, spread its wings, and danced along the shoulder of the road as it squared off with me.
I turned and ran. More rain fell and struck my face. As I wiped rain and tears from my eyes, the crow flew again past my head and landed in front of me. Then it turned and charged.
I screamed and kicked at it as it attacked my legs. Its beak tore through my blue jeans and pierced the tender flesh beneath. My head swam from the pain in my legs, and my knees nearly buckled when the crow hammered its beak against a kneecap. I staggered to run from the damn bird, to escape its savage assault.
Rain fell harder around us, getting into my eyes. A vehicle passed dangerously close and the driver blew its horn as the car speeded past and continued on.
The crow continued attacking me and I continued to kick blindly, erratically, and uselessly. Then it stopped for a moment. I turned and ran, lost my footing, and tumbled crazily onto the highway. The crow landed on my back, struck the back of my skull, and hopped away. When I looked up to see where it had gone, a pair of headlights bore down on me and lit up my eyes in a painful, fiery red.
I rolled out of the vehicle’s way and heard the crow take flight, its wings flapping like someone shaking sand from a beach towel.
When I turned, the truck had stopped along the berm. The driver’s door was open and Dr. Bisbee ran to me.
“My god, girl, what are you doing out here on the highway?” he asked.
“The crow,” I said in a bullfrog’s voice while trying to hold back my sobs and trying to stand. “It attacked me.”
Dr. Bisbee took me by the shoulders. Thunder rumbled. Cold rain fell. I opened my mouth to catch the rain that tasted good but icy in my throat. Then, I fell against Dr. Bisbee and wept.
He led me to the passenger door and helped me climb to a dry seat. Before he closed my door, I heard the crow caw out with a triumphant sound from somewhere outside.
I swore at it before the allover warmth inside the truck swallowed me and hushed my profanities. Then, as Dr. Bisbee got into the truck, he and the world around me vanished in a realm of sudden darkness.